Days after reports of de-escalation in their disputed border allayed public fears, China and India engaged in a violent confrontation that left at least 20 soldiers dead.
Background: China and India are separated in the Himalayas by a loosely-defined demarcation known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which has been disputed for decades. A fresh conflict reportedly arose in early May after China crossed their side in response to India’s road-building activities in the western sector of the border.
What happened: Troops clashed late Monday in the Galwan Valley close to Aksai Chin, an area claimed by both countries but is currently administered by China as part of Xinjiang.
- The incident occurred amid an ongoing de-escalation process, which came as a result of a consensus that had been reached on June 6.
- A source from the Indian side claimed that the brawl started after Chinese troops erected a tent in the area and Indian troops pulled it down.
- “The Indian soldiers were not ready for the assault,” the source told CNN, claiming that the Chinese side used “bamboo sticks with nails” as a weapon.
- The soldiers also used stones and iron rods during the incident, according to Bloomberg, though it’s unclear which side used what.
- Both sides reportedly suffered “casualties” but India specified that at least 20 of its own were killed and more were injured.
- So far, China has not published an official account on the incident, which lasted for up to five hours at freezing temperatures.
State responses: The clash has since drawn responses from national officials and international observers.
- On Tuesday, China stated that Indian troops crossed the border for illegal activities, violated the consensus and ultimately provoked its soldiers.
- “The right and wrong of this is very clear. This incident happened at the Chinese side of the line of actual control. China is not to blame for this,” said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- In a televised speech on Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that his country is capable of “giving a befitting reply,” according to The New York Times.
- “The sacrifices of our soldiers will not be in vain,” Modi said. “The sovereignty and integrity of India is supreme, and nobody can stop us in defending that. India wants peace, but if provoked, India is capable of giving a befitting reply.”
- Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the U.S. State Department announced that America is “closely monitoring” the situation.
- “We note the Indian military has announced that 20 soldiers have died, and we offer our condolences to their families,” the spokesperson said, adding that Modi and President Donald Trump had discussed the situation on June 2, according to the Kashmir Media Service.
Under the Leadership of BJYM howrah sadar President @OmVaanee ji Along with the Party Workers are stand with Indian Soldiers,PM of India and showing tribute to Martyrs of Indian Soldiers by China.Its a request to everyone please #Boycott chines Products. #BoycottChina#JaiHind pic.twitter.com/tDymrUCGiH
— Priyanka Sharma (@Priyankabjym) June 17, 2020
The incident also sparked numerous anti-China protests across India. Activists burned Chinese products, the Chinese flag and images of President Xi Jinping, NDTV reported.
In response, Chinese state-run Global Times noted that it would be “extremely dangerous” for India to allow anti-China groups to stir public opinion since it would only escalate tensions. Instead, the priority for both sides would be to accelerate economic recovery, according to the outlet.
Feature Images via @Priyankabjym